In Freya’s kitchen something was always boiling.
By 12 o’clock, the air was giddy with possibilities, and the pots so excited to be producing such wonders that their lids would dance higher and higher as Freya’s dishes cooked to a crescendo.
Chicken and mushroom with ginger and soy, yellow rice with cardamom and almond, an eggplant stew or a dish of steamed vegetables.
Felicity was Freya’s older sister. And by the assertion of her university degrees, her striking good looks and her status as their mother’s first born, Felicity claimed her birthright to sit at her sister’s table and be fed each day.
So, in Freya’s kitchen, something was always boiling.
The sisters were close. They talked every day. They told fearful tales of the loose morality of Australian society, and agonised over the marriage prospects of their daughters.
The sisters always shopped together. Felicity did the driving and Felicity paid.
They drove to the Greek deli in Prahran market for their favourite cheeses, and to the kosher butcher in Glenferrie Road for their favourite cuts of meat.
And people always remarked at how close the sisters were. They felt a comfort, a confidence that relationships can actually be the way you would imagine: loyal, loving, true.
One day, the sisters walked into the butcher shop in Glenferrie Road and there was a new butcher, young, perhaps just out of school, serving at the counter. He had round blue eyes, round red cheeks and a round sparkling smile.
Felicity told Freya that she would love some brisket for lunch, so Freya chose two substantial pieces which she would cook with onion and spices.
The young butcher picked one up in each hand and asked Freya if she’d like one piece wrapped separately for her mother, pointing to Felicity as the mother in question.
Now Felicity was a tall woman, as tall and straight as a Roman column, but when she heard herself referred to her sister’s mother, she doubled in stature. The offender heard her words from high above him, “Her sister.”
The young man’s round cheeks drooped to his jowls. Bent with contrition, he handed the meat to Freya, broke off the bill, and gave a small cry when Felicity snatched it from his hand. She handed him $25 and they left.
Back in Freya’s kitchen Felicity sat at the table and tapped intermittent drum rolls that grew louder and louder like an escalating alarm clock.
She watched her sister work.
Freya was bending and clattering deep down in a drawer. Her two round buttocks were stretching her jeans to a dangerous rift down the middle seam so that you could see each individual line of thread that bound them.
“You’re fat,” Felicity declared.
Freya ignored her. She dumped a heavy pot, pitted with age, on the kitchen table, then tucked in the meat and began to chop an onion.
“Where did you get that pot?” asked Felicity.
“Mum gave it to me.”
“She gave it to me.“
“No. To me, if I promised to cook for you, because you’re useless in the kitchen. “
“So cook. I’ll eat, but then, I want my pot back.”
Like a military putsch, Freya removed the brisket from the pot, scooped up the onions with her knife, threw them in, added $25, closed the lid and pointed the knife at her sister.
“Take your money, take your bitterness, take MY pot, and get out of my kitchen!”
“But what will I eat?”
“Your inheritance: your good looks, your university degrees, and an old pot full of bile.”
And even though, after many years, Freya and her sister did make peace, something was always boiling in Freya’s kitchen.